The wholesome development of children is pivotal for the upcoming prosperity of the nation. The visionary perspective of children today will bring many social reformations for the upliftment of society. With so much potential to change the fate of the nation, children need to be protected from unwelcomed adversities having the capability to impoverish their young minds. As they are not mature enough to comprehend the repercussions of their conduct they are been debarred from entering into contracts.
As children are dependent on their parents or guardians for subsistence and guidance they are vulnerable to malicious worldly affairs. It is essential to recognize child rights for ensuring their welfare. The framers of the constitution of India acknowledge their want for proper care for the growth of a child into a well educated citizen possessing a spirit of inquisition.
I] Children Welfare Provisions under the Constitution of India:
1) Article 15(3) of the Constitution draws a positive discrimination which empowers the state to enact a special provision in the interest of children and woman.
2) Right to education is declared as a fundamental right1of the children between 6 to 14 years of age group under Article 21A, inserted by the Constitution 86th Amendment Act, 2002.
4) Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and forced labor which includes children.
5) Article 24 prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or at any hazardous industrial area.
6) The State policy must ensure that due to financial issues, the tender age of children shall not be abused to enter avocation unsuited to their strength. [Article 39 (e)].
7) The state has a moral obligation to draft policies that shall secure a healthy development of a child by giving him opportunities and facilities and conferring a condition of freedom and dignity. The state must also look upon that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment. [Article 39 (f)]
8) Article 45 cast a duty on the state to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to 14 years of age.
9) The 86th Amendment Act 2002, the eleventh duty was added under Article 51- A (k) by recognizing the importance of education by laying a duty upon parents or guardian to provide an opportunity for the education of their child between the ages of 6 to 14 years.
II] Who is a child?
As per International Labor Organization [ILO], a child is defined as a person up to 12 years of age for the purpose of enacting special provisions.
However the Indian Constitution under Article 24 and 25 regards a child below 14 years of age. The Government of India define “child labor” as the segment of children population which participated in work either paid of unpaid.
The Government of India has designed a Nation Policy for the well being of the children as it considers them to be the assets of the nation. The Government takes responsibility for the growth and development of a child by ensuring equal opportunities especially for orphan and destitute children.
III] Reformation in Criminal Administration of Justice to Secure Welfare of Children:
a) Legislature has taken a step forward by enacting Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 which declares that any person who is below the age of 21 years shall not be sentence to imprisonment.
b) Juvenile Justice (Care and Probation of Children) Act 2000 provides for the care, protection, treatment, development, and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles.
c) Provisions lead down under Indian Penal Code 45 of 1860: 1) Section 366-A: Procuration of Minor Child
2) Section 366-B: Importation of Girls from foreign country.
3) Section 372: Selling of minor for purpose of Prostitution etc.
4) Section 373: Buying Minor for the purpose of Prostitution etc.
IV] The Act that prohibits employment of children below the age of 12 or 15 years:
a) The Plantation Labour Act, 1951.
b) The Mines Act, 1952.
c) Amendment of Factories Act, 1954.
d) Merchant and Shipping Act, 1958.
e) The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961.
f) The Apprentice Act, 1961.
g) The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (total prohibition)
h) The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966. i) Amendment of the Employment of Children Act, 1978.
j) The Shops and Establishment Act
k) The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
V] Judgments passed by Apex Court for Children welfare:
a) M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu2: The court directed the Government to take assertive measures for improving the quality of life of children who are indulged in hazardous employment at factories.
b) People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India3: The Apex court stated that even if there is no legislation implemented to secure the rights of the children, their rights can be enforced through maintaining a PIL.
c) Vishal Jeet v. Union of India4: The Supreme Court was dismayed about increasing sexual exploitation of children occurring due to flesh trade, Devdasi pratha and Jogin traditions. Court observed that despite the rigorous and rehabilitative laws the desired results are not achieved.
d) M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu5: The Supreme Court held that at least 60 % of wages of adults must be given to child labour.
VI] Indian Government Scheme for Welfare of Children:
a) The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP).
b) Integrated Child Development (ICDS).
c) National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS).
d) Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY).
e) Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS).
Even after stringent legislative measures the figures of children exploitation is still disturbing. Nothing is wrong with the laws but with the enforcement of it as the act which are enacted to protect the children are more breached then being observed. Social welfare laws are more than exhibiting mere concern; they are enacted to deliver justice then to just address the issue at its face value. A large section of children in society even today are no able to access food and education which further leads to increase the poverty and economic backlash for the Nation. It is imperative to raise awareness against cruelty and exploitation of the children and also family planning must be given prime importance.
By Divya Dilip Arekar,III Year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), The Maharaja Sayajirao University Of Baroda, Gujarat.